Research Statement

The one core question that has motivated me into academia is: what factors drove the Industrialization and the “Great Divergence” between Europe and China? Each stage of my research experience has offered a unique perspective and deepened my understanding of this complex issue. From my undergraduate history honors thesis to my master’s thesis in economics, I have gradually come to understand that the seeds of the Great Divergence were sown decades earlier than the Industrial Revolution. The true divergence emerged as European technological growth began to accelerate while Chinese innovation remained stagnant. Therefore, my current research agenda is centered on exploring the dynamics of technological change and human capital formation in historical China, which I believe are key to understanding why this divergence occurred. Besides my formal research focus, I am also interested in¬†contemporary innovation and firm dynamics, particularly in relation to innovation and industrial policies within emerging markets.

Working Papers

Charting the Needham Puzzle: A Long-Term Perspective on Book Writing in China

Zhiwu Chen, Li Duan

Chains of Meritocracy: Keju and Diversity in Knowledge Composition in China

Zhiwu Chen, Li Duan

Awakening Latent Human Capital: the Opening-up and Entrepreneurship in 19th-century China

Li Duan, Xiaoming Zhang 

Work in Progress


  • Duan, L. (2014). Fuzhou Shipyard at Fujian Province: Early Divergence in Late Qing Modernization. UC Berkeley: Library. Retrieved from¬†Charlene Conrad Liebau Library Prize for Undergraduate Research